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Edition 354 – Changing The Landscape

Have you ever heard someone complain about change?

“Things just aren’t the same anymore.”
“Remember the good old days?”
“I can’t keep up with what’s happening in the world these days.”

The problem is, when I hear those comments sprouting from the mouths of small and family business owners, I know they’ve not planned for the future.

Twenty years ago, when you walked into a newsagent on a Saturday morning, it was chock-a-block with people buying the weekend papers. The Sydney Morning Herald was so popular that it was stacked chest high in two sections. Their motoring, real estate and employment classifieds were the “rivers of gold” that drove profitability for the publisher. Today, that model has been replaced by a large online player in each of those fields (CarSales, & Seek), none of whom are owned by the publisher of the Herald, which itself has been swallowed up by the Nine Network.

Fast forward two decades and a newsagency today is a combination of a corner store betting shop and crappy gift store, all tied into one. Saturday morning traffic is down to a trickle at the back end of 2022.

Similarly, back in 2002, the Australian car industry was thriving. Almost 25% of new car sales in Australia were to home grown, local product such as the Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and Toyota Camry. Back to the future, there is no longer a local car industry, two of those three nameplates are dead and in Holden’s case, General Motors axed the brand entirely, killing off an Australian icon in the process.

In each of these situations, profitable, prosperous businesses have evaporated in less than a generation.

Future planning of small and family business tends to be an incredibly low priority for most owners and managers. If times are good, then they budget for those times to remain good, plus 10% on last year. That’s, of course, assuming they prepare a budget, which most small and family businesses don’t.

If you’re not taking a day or two to plan the future of your business, how do you know:

  1. What business opportunities you are missing?
  2. What your competitors are up to?
  3. Whether or not your profit margins are rising or falling and what’s impacting those measures?
  4. Whether you have the right people on board, with the right attitude and skills, to propel your business forward?
  5. Whether you have the financial backing necessary to take your business into the future?
  6. Whether technological or societal change is likely to impact your business? 

There’s plenty of other questions I cover off with my clients when we spend a day or two developing the future plan for their business. What never ceases to amaze me is just how deep the conversations can get, and how excited people can become when they take a moment to step out of their business and devote time to developing an alternate future.

Life in business is a constantly changing landscape. What you’re doing today in business will, most likely, not be what you’ll be doing in business in 5 years, let alone 10. Without taking a moment (or two days of moments) to assess that landscape, you may well be signing the death knell for your business and, in the process, the financial security of you and your family.

This Week’s Tip

“When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”